National Bolshevism: Choosing Death

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Over the past decade, Anglophone circles have become increasingly familiar with a term previously only known to ex-Soviets: National Bolshevism, or, as it is more commonly shortened to, "Nazbol." You've probably heard of it, and you might have even had the term thrown at you as a political slur. I also guarantee that most people, even many who have proclaimed themselves to be "Nazbol" in some form, don't know what it means. To fully illumate the nature of National Bolshevism, the lineage of the term must be explored, so as to set some form of foundation for our discussion.

The actual term "National Bolshevism," from what I can tell, seems to have originated as the name for a potential strategy for German communists. It is widely held that Heinrich Laufenberg and Fritz Wolffheim, during their reign of the Communist Party of Germany, conceived of it, though there is some evidence pointing to the possibility that Karl Radek was the one who suggested the term to Laufenberg and Wolffheim. I would like to emphasize that, as these names indicate, the original conception of "Nazbol" was concocted by people who were well-established Marxists. Given the term's later trajectory, I find this relatively respectable origin to be quite amusing.

So, what was Nazbol supposed to be? The main impetus was opposition to imperialism, and in particular to Germany's expansionist policies. Laufenberg and Wolffheim identified the Social Democratic Party of Germany as being complicit in this imperialism. Therefore, cooperation with the SPD was considered off the table. Yet, this would not mean throwing in the towel. The hope was that the path towards a Dictatorship of the Proletariat could be achieved if the KPD were to harness German nationalism for their own ends. The newly-established Dictatorship of the Proletariat would then rise up against the Allies of World War I with the help of the Soviet Union. This idea even went as far as to propose incorporating the Freikorps (or at least, elements of them) into their ranks.

Sound scary? Today it does, but what might surprise you is that it actually had support among some communists, even members of the Spartacus League. If so, why was it not attempted? Vladimir Lenin single-handedly made the idea unfashionable by proclaiming, in no uncertain terms, that it was ridiculous. Though, despite its increasing stigma, the idea actually persisted, but this time, its primary thinkers would come from the Right.

Perhaps the most well-known today is Ernst Niekisch, the editor of the journal Widerstand, whose logo was the now-infamous Nazbol eagle. The journal received contributions from a variety of thinkers, most notably Ernst Jünger, along with his younger brother Friedrich Georg Jünger. This new generation of Nazbols consisted of those who fully embraced the Führerprinzip, but not Hitler and the Nazi Party. Niekisch emphasized how Nazism lacked any genuinely socialist or revolutionary content, and considered the USSR to be a much better model for Germany. A similar distrust of Nazism pervaded other prominent Nazbols, such as Karl Otto Paetel, author of The National Bolshevist Manifesto.

As an aside, the two Ernsts were both members of a group known as ARPLAN, or the Association for the Study of Russian Planned Economy, alongside, of all people, Karl Wittfogel, György Lukács, and Henryk Grossman, among others. A particularly interesting combination of people...

Now, do you understand everything that I have just told you? As it turns out, basically none of it is relevant to what will follow. What I have described to you thus far is merely the origin of the term "National Bolshevism" that is so abused today. The term only survives because it is a very easy label to apply to the very alluring image of "the Far-Left meets the Far-Right." Hence, people today will refer to an incredibly disparate grouping of movements as "Nazbol," despite only a few of them embracing the terminology.

There are two German groups that I will only briefly mention for completion's sake. The first is the Strasserist faction within the Nazi Party. This was a group led by the Strasser brothers, Gregor and Otto, who desired to take the antisemitism of the NSDAP in a more explicitly economic direction. The reason most people have never heard of the Strasser brothers before is because they were killed during the Night of the Long Knives. Their appropriation of the tactics and aesthetics of mass worker movements has led people to retrospectively term them "Left-Nazis," or even "Nazbol." However, this is misleading in a manner that will recur with respect to later movements. Strasserism was, indeed, to the Left of Hitler. But, and this a very important distinction, this does not mean that Strasserism was itself a Left-wing movement, let alone a "Left-Right synthesis."

The second of these German movements is the (very broad) group of the Conservative Revolutionaries. These guys are worth a dedicated discussion, but alas. They include the aformentioned Ernst Jünger, as well as Carl Schmitt, Oswald Spengler, and even Martin Heidegger, to some extent. These guys are completely out of place in this discussion, except for the fact that Jünger frequently corresponded with noted Nazbol thinkers. Besides that, they are often mentioned in the context of "non-Nazi Right-wing groups in Germany before and during WWII" or something similar.

Now, all of the movements discussed so far have been German, but we all know that Germany isn't the first country that "Nazbol" brings to mind. No, that country would be Russia. The modern conception of National Bolshevism is mostly derived from its Russian exponents. Unfortunately, the Russian examples of so-called "Nazbol" are also completely unlike one another, leading to confusion among outsiders.

One of the older movements that often gets linked with Nazbol is the Smenovekhovtsy, led by Nikolay Ustryalov. This group is notable in that it is actually is linked to German Nazbol, via the influence of Niekisch. Ustryalov was an example of a broader phenomenon of former White Russians who eventually accepted the defeat of the Russian Civil War and changed attitudes. While they obviously would've preferred a White victory, they saw the newly-founded USSR as the only practical path towards making Russia a world power. Unfortunately for Ustryalov, Lenin did not accept him as an ally, and while views on Nazbol became more tolerant under Stalin, he was eventually purged. There were other groups made of former Whites who accepted defeat, such as the Union of Mladorossi or the Evraziitsi, but their history is not particularly distinct from the trajectory of Ustryalov, so they shall only be mentioned in passing.

There is, however, another strain of so-called "Nazbol" thought originating from Russia, which dominates the modern imagination. This is the form of Nazbol linked to the National Bolshevik Party, one of the more infamous Russian dissident movements. From this party sprang forth Eduard Limonov, as well as a certain man who would eventually become the single most infamous "Nazbol" ever: Aleksandr Dugin, a man who, for all practical purposes, is considered some form of evil magician within the more NATO-aligned sectors of the world.

But wait, if Dugin is a Nazbol, why did he leave the NBP?

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